BA (Hons) Graphic Communication
Design Studies at USW is rated top in Wales for student satisfaction for the second year running National Student Survey 2022
The role of Graphic Designer has transformed enormously with the development of the digital world.
Our Graphic Communications course is current, exciting and bold, exploring emerging communication practices and technologies. Developed in consultation with industry, the course offers specialist employable skills in design thinking, design research methodologies and 21st century design practice. Through this course you will explore how Designers strategically utilise identity (branding); how information is used to encourage, persuade, and change mindsets (information graphics and data-led campaigns) and finally how we help the public navigate the world through signage and way finding (user experience, user interface and motion graphics).
You’ll be encouraged to learn how to work with the public, clients, and others to understand the human-centered challenges they face and experiment with both new and traditional design practices and technologies to develop effective solutions to these problems.
We believe that our course encourages our students to tackle design challenges that not only interest them, but ones that have real socio-economic impact, enabling them to solve problems that we value and care about.
You will study and practice at USW’s creative campus in the centre of Cardiff. The city is rich in design agencies and opportunities to get involved in the emerging design scene.
The course has a fantastic reputation and working relationship within the creative industries. Our students learn to gain confidence and work professionally through our professional practice modules and industry experience events and opportunities.
Our graduates have been highly employable through portfolio, demonstrating creative thinking and digital skills focused on design challenges that matter.
Top in Wales for course satisfaction in Graphic Design (Guardian University Guide 2023)
The modules on our Graphic Communication degree have been strategically considered to help you develop and progress from ‘design student’ to ‘design professional’. You will learn new ways to research and react as you progress through our ‘Crawl, Walk and Run’ approach to design education.
The degree starts with building a solid foundation in core skills:
- Visualisation for Communication – How we use the principles and elements of design to form visual messages
- Design Thinking in Practice – How we recognize and utilize the process of design to navigate from concept to prototype to product
- Design Research Methods – Understanding how to better understand challenges through research perspective and viewpoints
The course is your creative playground and in your final year is all about you, your independence, your craft, and your professional profile. This is where you will fine tune your portfolio and focus your career pathway. Your course ends with a graduate showcase that exhibits your work in a professional networking event.
Modules in Detail
Visualisation for Communication (Practical)
This module explores the principles and elements of visual communication and aims to initiate and encourage design practice. Students will learn an array of skills from colour theory to hierarchy through this playful module as they attempt to solve their first design brief.
Design Thinking in Practice (Practical)
All Designers have a process, a series of techniques and methods that they enlist to solve complex communication problems. This teams-based module encourages student design teams to put design processes into practice as they tackle their first live design brief. Students will gain insights into team-working and management, along with design processes and their delegation.
Design Research Methods (Written)
Whether it be a survey, a database, an interview, or a collection of visual samples, it is critical that a designer learns how to collect, collate, interrogate, and interpret information. Design Research Methods teaches students how to conduct an array of research methods to inspire creativity and better understand the core factors behind a design challenge.
User Experience Design (Practical)
The field of User Experience Design (UXD)is one of the most rapidly expanding arenas within Graphic Communication. Helping others navigate the world is a key aspect of the designer toolkit and practice, whether it be navigating a store or simply finding something to watch using an online service, UXD encourages human-centered understanding and design psychology at the heart of the problem-solving process. Students will learn to design a working prototype of a mobile application.
Change by Design (Practical)
This practice module explores the practice of visual communication and its impact towards social / political change. Students will learn how to utilise Graphic Communication to manage change through persuasion. How might we encourage people to get active through a visual call to action?
Strategic Branding in the 21st Century (Written and Practical)
What does it mean to Brand something? What is brand behaviour, and how might we explore design to implement and foster brand value? This module introduces students to branding, diagnostical reporting of an existing brand and the proposal of a new concept.
Each module on year one has a series of technical instructors supporting the array of software applications that need to be learned.
Data Stories and Infographics (Written and Practical)
We live in a complex world that’s permeated with data, statistics, information, and instruction. This module explores the spectrum of data gathering, interrogation, interpretation and how Designers utilise this knowledge to produce meaningful design.
Design Challenge (Practical)
Its national competition time and your chance to show the world your creativity in this exciting module. Design Challenge connects students to a selection of challenging design briefs set by some of the world’s leading brands. Competition modules are rare on the second year of a degree program and we’re happy to not only deliver this module but also announce that we’ve had a history of second year student winners.
Design Lab (Written)
We live in a rapidly developing world, especially concerning technologically. What does this mean for the Designer? Their skillsets and their applicability for employment? Design Lab encourages students to explore where design was, where it is and where it’s heading.
Specialist Module 1 (Practical)
This module explores Motion Graphics and the importance this plays in the designer toolkit. Students further develop their skills in visual storytelling through timeline-based graphics. Excited by TV show title sequences? Moving brands? Animated diagrams? This module explores how Designers move from static to motion.
Specialist Module 2 (Practical)
This module is more commonly known as ‘Playful Type’ and encourages students to push their creativity and experimentation with craft and digital. The module is focused on typography:
- Type formation and structure
- Type as an art form
- Type as representation
- Type as a Navigational device and type as a provider of clerical information
Design Safari (Written and Practical)
What is a Design Agency? How do they work? Two of the many questions that will be asked as students form teams and embark on a journey to propose their own strategy for a design agency. This module is team-based and requires students to connect with design agencies to gain a professional insight into agency practices from pricing to pitching.
Boot Camp (Practical and Presentations)
Commercial Designers work to tight deadlines with limited timeframes and deal with constant last minute client changes. Boot Camp teaches time, time-management, project management and dealing with unexpected client changes as students face 5 consecutive 5-day design briefs set by Design agencies.
Design Futures (Practical and Presentations)
Design futures initiates your final year of study and marks the start of your independence as a commercial designer. This module is about your professional brand; your portfolio; Your professional practice and development. Design futures is heavily focused towards employment and progression into the creative industries and provides mock interview experiences and portfolio surgeries with design agencies.
Global Design Cultures (Practical and Presentations)
It’s competition time again, as year three students are asked to select a design competition that aligns with their commercial practice and intended career pathway.
Research Project I (Investigation)
Research Project I and II represents the final major project of your studies and course. Research project I requires the publication of your research skills (report) in practice as you investigate a design challenge that you feel passionate towards gaining further insights. This is your opportunity to think big and work in a specific field within the subject area.
Research Project II (Practical and Exhibition)
This module initiates with a self-directed design brief based on the insights gained in part I (investigation). This self-direct final major project requires and exhibition of outcomes, prototypes, products and solutions to the issues and challenges found in your published research and investigation report.
The Graphic Communication course is comprised of both fixed lectures and seminars delivered by visiting industry professionals. The fixed team is a blend of industry practitioners, academics, and researchers. Visiting lectures range from design business proprietors to freelance designers with specialist skillsets in key disciplines within the subject area. The course is highly practical in delivery and continuously focused on the development of you, your professionalism, your digital skillset and creative confidence.
Lectures range from contextual lectures, practical workshops, studio support sessions and design critiques. The campus has a range of Adobe Credited digital technicians that support a plethora of design software applications taught both online and on campus.
The course provides a range of assessment methods that are all intended to develop expected transferable and employable skills.
Assessment methods to expect on this course are:
Practical assessment varies from the submission of your design process work and outcome for assessment and review. This mostly takes the form of an assessment mark sheet that not only identifies areas of award but also areas for improvement to aid your progression.
Some practical modules end with a Design Critique, A show and tell whereby the cohort exhibit their work and an informal setting for feedback. Students will be expected to informally explain their work and discuss their project in a safe-space setting intended to increase confidence, vernacular, and terminological usage when challenged to define and describe their design work or process journey.
The course has several models assessed by the presentation assessment methods. These are primarily intended to increase a student’s confidence when discussing / pitching their ideas / outcomes. Presenting work with confidence and demonstrating defensive knowledge around the design process is an expected skill within this discipline.
Industry professional assessment
The course works with several industry professionals and clients and therefore student can expect to receive active feedback from a broad range of professionals.
We have strong links with industry partners that offer opportunities for work experience. Many of these are right on our doorstep in Cardiff, ensuring you make the most of your time in this creative capital city.
Graphic Communication is an exceptionally broad-based subject area with many avenues for employability within a global industry. Many of our students have travelled globally to undertake work. You'll also compete in national and international design competitions, which will showcase your work on a global stage.
The campus provides an exciting studio space in the heart of Cardiff. Specialist facilities include laser cutting and 3D printing facilities, as well as greenscreen and photographic studios that can be booked by students. The library offers an exception range of design books, magazines, and journals. The course offers specific equipment such as DSLR cameras, but a much wider range of specialist equipment can be obtained through student equipment loan services.
The course has access to a Risographic printer for student interested in traditional methods towards colour separation and further traditional resources are available at the University’s Treforest campus. The University provides a fantastic remote printing service with campus delivery.
We regularly revalidate courses for quality assurance and enhancement
At USW, we regularly review our courses in response to changing patterns of employment and skills demand to ensure we offer learning designed to reflect today’s student needs and tomorrow’s employer demands.
If during a review process course content is significantly changed, we’ll write to inform you and talk you through the changes for the coming year. But whatever the outcome, we aim to equip our students with the skillset and the mindset to succeed whatever tomorrow may bring. Your future, future-proofed.
The entry criteria below shows the qualification range within which the University will make offers. The University has a Contextual Admissions Policy, therefore, whilst most offers we make are at the top of the range, under the Policy we take certain aspects of an application into consideration and eligible UCAS applicants can receive a personalised offer or have results considered individually when you receive them. Here is a link to our Contextual Admissions Policy Statement.
Combinations of qualifications are acceptable and other qualifications not listed here may also be acceptable.
Applicants in the UK
Selection for this course is based on a suitable application. If you do not meet the entry criteria, you may also be required to provide a portfolio of your work to help us assess your suitability for the course.
Applicants outside the UK
Selection for this course is based on a suitable application and submission of a portfolio of your work which the Course Leader confirms is suitable for an offer to be made.
Typical A-Level Offer
BCC - CDD to include a relevant art and design subject (this is equivalent to 104-80 UCAS tariff points).
Typical Welsh BACC Offer
Pass the Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate Diploma with Grade C/D in the Skills Challenge Certificate and BC - CD at A Level with a relevant art and design subject (this is equivalent to 104-80 UCAS tariff points).
Typical BTEC Offer
BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction Merit Merit - Merit Merit Pass in a relevant subject (this is equivalent to 112-80 UCAS tariff points).
Typical IB Offer
Pass the International Baccalaureate Diploma with a minimum score of 29 overall including 5 or above in English at standard level
Typical Access to HE Offer
Pass the Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 80 UCAS tariff points
GCSEs: The University normally requires a minimum 5 GCSEs including Mathematics/Numeracy and English at Grade C or Grade 4 or above, or their equivalent, but consideration is given to individual circumstances
International Entry Requirements
We also welcome international applications with equivalent qualifications. Please visit the country specific pages on our international website for exact details.
In general, international applicants will need to have achieved an overall IELTS grade of 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component.
However, if you have previously studied through the medium of English IELTS might not be required, but please visit the country specific page on our international website for exact details. If your country is not featured please contact us.
Full-time fees are per year. Part-time fees are per 20 credits. Once enrolled, the fee will remain at the same rate throughout the duration of your study on this course
August 2023 - July 2024 Fees
Full-time UK: £9000
Full-time International: £14100
August 2024 - July 2025 Fees
Full-time UK: TBC
Full-time International: TBC
At the University of South Wales, you’re investing in so much more than a degree. We strive to provide our students with the best possible experience, no matter what you chose to study. Whether it’s access to top of the range mac books and PCs, state-of-the-art facilities packed with industry-leading equipment and software, masterclasses and events led by industry experts, or a wide range of clubs and societies to meet likeminded people, better tomorrows start with extra perks.
Each course also has their own unique student benefits to prepare you for the real word, and details of these can be found on our course pages. From global field trips, integrated work experience and free course-related resources, to funded initiatives, projects working with real employers, and opportunities for extra qualifications and accreditations - at USW your future, is future-proofed.
As a student of USW, you’ll have access to lots of free resources to support your study and learning, such as textbooks, publications, online journals, laptops, and plenty of remote-access resources. Whilst in most cases these resources are more than sufficient in supporting you with completing your course, additional costs, both obligatory and optional, may be required or requested for the likes of travel, memberships, experience days, stationery, printing, or equipment.
|Kit (Uniform and Equipment)||£250||
Materials, per year
|Field Trips||£900 - £1200||
Field trip to international destination
|Other: Printing & Exhibition Costs *||£150 - £300||
£150 (Year 1 & 2), £300 (Year 3)
|Kit (Uniform and Equipment)||£400 - £1600||
Funding to help pay for (or cover) course tuition fees and living costs
Whilst you’re studying, you’ll have two main financial obligations – tuition fees and living costs. There’s lots of financial help available from the University of South Wales and external funding sources, that may provide loans (which have to be paid back) and grants, scholarships and bursaries (that don't).
To learn about course fees, funding options, and to see if you are eligible for financial support, visit our Fees and Funding pages.
Apply via UCAS if you are a UK residing applicant, applying for year one of a full-time undergraduate degree, Foundation Year, Foundation Degree or HND and you have not applied through UCAS before. If you are applying to study part-time, to top up your Foundation Degree or HND, or to transfer to USW from another institution, please apply directly.
International and EU students
Apply directly to the University if you live outside the UK.
Students completing this degree typically progress to the following career pathways:
- Digital Graphic Designer
- Brand Consultant
- User Experience Designer
- Motion Graphic Designer
- Campaign Designer
- General Designer (Marketing)
- User Interface Designer
- Continued Education (master’s degree)
- Continued Education for teaching (PGCe qualification)
Students graduating from Graphic Design degrees typically tend to work in Design Agencies or as inhouse designers for large organisations with embedded design teams. Graduates tend to start a freelance practice in situation share they require mobility (world travel).
Our Careers and Employability Service
As a USW student, you will have access to advice from the Careers and Employability Service throughout your studies and after you graduate.
This includes: one-to-one appointments from faculty based Career Advisers, in person, over the phone or even on Skype and through email via the "Ask a Question" service. We also have extensive online resources for help with considering your career options and presenting yourself well to employers. Resources include psychometric tests, career assessments, a CV builder, interview simulator and application help. Our employer database has over 2,000 registered employers targeting USW students, you can receive weekly email alerts for jobs.
Our Careers service has dedicated teams: A central work experience team to help you find relevant placements; an employability development team which includes an employability programme called Grad Edge; and an Enterprise team focused on new business ideas and entrepreneurship.